For some reason, there are few coffee shops around Boston that offer free Wi-Fi. Sadly, Dunkin Donuts is the only place one can rely on for free Wi-Fi (not to mention amazing people watching) around here. You’d think the Hub would be more connected than that, but that’s sadly not the case. In fact, even the moon has a one-up on Beantown — there’s now lunar Wi-Fi that’s as fast as the Wi-Fi I’m using right now. I guess the coffee shop is next.
Researchers from NASA and MIT have devised a way to beam Wi-Fi capabilities from a base in New Mexico. Even cooler than that, they use telescopes and lasers to do it. Four separate telescopes, each with a diameter of roughly six inches, transmit an uplink signal via coded infrared laser pulses to a satellite orbiting the moon. The signal bends in the atmosphere as it travels the nearly 240,000 miles to the moon, so using four telescopes ensures that the signals from each bend differently, which increases the chances that one of those laser beams will hit the receiver on the satellite. The receiver also has a satellite, which focuses the laser light into an optical fiber before amplifying that signal 30,000 times. Then, a photodetector converts the light into electrical pulses that are then converted into data bits. And presto, a wireless connection is established.